The Mormonism and Migration Project is so named for two reasons. First, it is about Mormons. We mean by that term not only the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but members of what scholars call the Mormon tradition—all of those churches that trace their origins to Joseph Smith’s revelations.

Second, it is about migration. Often, this word is used legally or technically, to refer to people who cross national borders, or move from one nation-state to another. But scholars also use it more broadly, as an aspect of the broader process of globalization. That process is itself hard to pin down, but here we use it to mean the fading of traditional political, social, and economic boundaries and the consequent rise of new networks that cross those old boundaries, economic, cultural, familial, and social networks.

Globalization has been happening for a long time, and we might trace it to the emergence of trans-Atlantic trade networks in the 1400s and 1500s. But it also has greatly accelerated in the last hundred years, as new communication, transportation and manufacturing technologies have made older nation-states less and less important. Instead, non-governmental organizations have emerged as increasingly powerful: corporations, cultural networks, and religions.

In this new context of globalization, migration takes on many meanings. Here we use it to describe relocation across a border of significance. That might be a traditional political border, but it might also mean cultural borders, economic borders, or social borders. It might mean physical movement, but it might also mean, for instance, educational achievement or religious conversion.

Scholars have described migration happening on three levels. The first, and most familiar to us, is migration as a personal experience. How might a single person’s journey across a border affect their lives, shape their identity, or destroy or generate social, cultural, political or economic networks? In particular, the Project is interested in how that journey shapes one’s religious identity. It explores how various types of migration—physical, religious, economic, social—influence each other: how, for instance, one’s conversion to a variety of Mormonism might inspire other forms of migration, or how a physical move might facilitate a religious transformation.

The second level of migration is collective. Diasporas, a community’s departure from its place of origin, is an example of collective migration. The Project is interested in the ways Mormonism has served as an identity that facilitates collective migrations.

The last level of migration is institutional—the process by which organizations like corporations or religious institutions cross political or cultural borders, and the adaptations these organizations consequently embrace.

The Project is particularly interested in the interaction between the first and third levels of migration. What might individual stories tell us about institutional adaption?

Aspects of the Project

The Project embraces four different efforts.

First, the Migration Map tells stories of various Mormon migrants. These are individuals who have crossed political, cultural, and economic borders, and whose Mormonism was in some way integral to those journeys. We tell their stories in a variety of ways: some are written, some recorded in audio or video interviews, and some through documents that illustrate their journeys. Through a presentation of a kaleidoscope of stories broader patterns emerge, and students of religion, migration, and globalization might see how the Mormon tradition in total is adapting to an age of globalization.

Second, the Claremont Graduate University Oral History Projects tell these stories in different ways. Transcripts of the Mormon Women’s Oral History Project and the Global Mormon Oral History project document the lived religion of Mormons all over the world, illustrating the different manifestations that the Mormon tradition embodies.

Third, the Mormonism and Migration Archives contain a variety of digitized source material bearing on the Mormon tradition in the age of globalization, from the nineteenth century to the present.

Last, the Mormonism and Migration Introductory Essays offers scholars and community members brief essays discussing the history, status, and future of the Mormon tradition in regions all over the globe. It also offers a guide to scholars seeking secondary and primary material as they begin research work on Mormonism outside the United States.